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Electoral laws found wanting

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By Mandy Pondani & Bethsaida Msowoya:

MUNTHALI—Malawi has a long way to achieve gender balance

In the aftermath of the disputed May 21 Tripartite Elections, some analysts and commentators continue to weigh in on the outcome of the elections and related issues.

On the presidential result which Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM are contesting at the High Court, some commentators said it exposes glaring gaps in the country’s electoral system in the absence of the 50+1 system which Parliament rejected.

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George Phiri, of University of Livingstonia, over the weekend said, with President Mutharika retaining the  residency by just 32 percent of the votes, 50+1 would ensure that the winning candidate gets majority of votes.

He, however, cautioned that the 50+1 electoral system was not the only solution, saying even if it were enforced in the elections, the system would have brought challenges as it was not critically analysed when proposed.

“It is possible that one can amass 50+1 through rigging and sometimes, one can get 50+1 just from one region because some regions have more people than other regions. We can only achieve 50+1 if it taken as an aggregate of all the regions in the country,” Phiri said.

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He, therefore, said if Malawians were to push for 50+1 electoral reforms back to Parliament, consideration should be on the factors that mar the interpretation of the results using the 50+1 percentage.

But political scientist Ernest Thindwa from University of Malawi’s Chancellor College differed with Phiri, saying there was no link between rigging and an electoral system but people that man institutions that govern elections.

He said Malawians should be mindful that the current first-past-the-post system (simple majority) gives a narrow mandate to the governing party.

“The issue of rigging has nothing to do with the type of electoral system that has been put in place but it depends on the type of institution and the people running it,” Thindwa said.

He said it was impossible to have 50 percent of the votes from one region, saying 50+1 is about whether one has larger or broader mandate compared to the narrow mandate.

Speaking separately, Chancellor College trained political analyst, Makhumbo Munthali, said it was high time Malawi re-thought the electoral reforms, lamenting the continued poor show of women in elections.

He said, despite the increase in women representation from 16 percent to 21 percent, Malawi was below the required 40 percent which the Gender Equality Act prescribes.

“Besides, there have also been calls for Malawi to meet its regional obligations under both Sadc Protocol and the AU [African Union] Maputo Protocol through achieving 50 percent representation of women in Parliament. The failure by Parliament to pass the electoral reforms in 2017, which included gender quotas for Parliamentary seats, means that Malawi has a long way to achieve gender balance in Parliament,” Munthali said.

The concerns come when various quarters including Public Affairs Committee have said the elections were not credible, with Mzuzubased social commentator Emily Mkamanga saying the speed at which Mutharika was sworn-in.

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